A Day of Infamy: January 22, 1973

Remembering Roe v. Wade, 46 years later

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made abortion legal, making this year the tragic 46-year anniversary of the SCOTUS decision. This infamous decision, referred to as Roe v. Wade, effectively legalized abortion on demand.

In the Roe v. Wade decision, the pregnancy was divided into three trimesters. In the first trimester (months 1-3), a state/government has no right to intervene. In the second trimester (months 4-6), the state/government has a limited right to intervene to protect the preborn baby. In the third trimester (months 7-9), the state/government has a strong right to intervene to protect the preborn baby. If this is what was decided in the SCOTUS decision, how did Roe v. Wade effectively legalize abortion on demand?

They included a caveat which if the condition was met, abortion could be legal for the duration of the pregnancy. What was the caveat? The health of the mother. Embedded within the law, and opening the door to the limitation is if the abortion is “to preserve the life or health of the mother” (emphasis mine). Furthermore, SCOTUS defined the health of the mother as including “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.” Those two steps effectively legalized abortion on demand.

Not bare statistics

These numbers are not bare statistics. They are lives. Human beings created in the image of God (imago Dei), who have worth and dignity.

Since Roe v. Wade, about 61 million babies have been aborted, or needlessly and cruelly murdered, in America. The number worldwide, since 1980, is a ghastly 1.5 billion. These numbers are astronomically high and intensely disturbing. It is a horror beyond comprehension. (For more information regarding the breakdown of these numbers, cf. Guttmacher Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Abort73.com)

These numbers are not bare statistics. They are lives. Human beings created in the image of God (imago Dei), who have worth and dignity. And these human beings are and represent some of the most weak and vulnerable of the human race, which means they ought to be protected and preserved with the utmost vigilance and care. And yet, these infants are treated as less than human and disposable.

Abortion with a “minority’s face”

Because we care about all human beings, since all are created in the image of God, all abortions are grievous and egregious sins against God and others, all others. This includes all those loved by God, as we would sing, “red and yellow, black and white.” And yet, it is also important to state that racial issues are associated with abortion, which is little known and seldom mentioned. The racial disparity among those receiving abortions is huge. It becomes a racial matter that is almost never addressed. In a sermon preached in 2007, When Is Abortion Racism?, John Piper concludes abortion has a “minority’s face” to it:

In other words, the de facto effect (I don’t call it the main cause, but net effect) of putting abortion clinics in the urban centers is that the abortion of Hispanic and black babies is more than double their percentage of the population...Call this what you will—when the slaughter has a minority’s face and the percentages are double that of the white community and the killers are almost all white, something is going on here that ought to make the lovers of racial equality and racial harmony wake up.

More specifically, in Abortion and Race, the authors conclude that “In the United States, black children are aborted at more than three times the rate of white children; Hispanic children are aborted at one and a half times the rate. Whatever the intentions of Planned Parenthood, abortion is eliminating an incommensurate number of minority children.”

Even though “abortion still devastates the African-American community at an alarming and disproportionate rate,” there are a growing number of black pro-life activists [who] are fighting for lives” (cf. Against the Tide). And in the Hispanic community, “shame and family silence lead many Hispanic women to abortionists,” but thankfully, “a pro-life message may be making strides” (cf. Living Pro-Vida).

In response, it is critical that we ground our understanding of the dignity of the preborn infant in the imago Dei, which is grounded in God and his revelation in the Scriptures.

God and His Word

God’s Word is always the place to begin and end as we ponder how we as the people of God are to think about life and the taking of life and respond to this issue. Here are a number of critical truths that must be foundational for all of our thinking, processing, pondering, praying and participating as believers, those who live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ through our submitting to his authoritative Word, as we stand for life and against the taking of human life in abortion.

  1. All human beings are created in the image of God, the imago Dei, and thus have dignity and worth (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1, 3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9).
  2. All of life is a gift from God (Acts 17:25) and therefore sacred, from conception to death, and those who serve the “God of the living” (Matt 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38) affirm the sanctity of life and care for all (Ps 139:13-18; Rom 13:8-10). Life is a gift from God, the Author and Giver of life, and is to be treated as such. Life is never ours to take (Gen 9:6; Ex 21:12; Lev 24:17; Num 35:31).
  3. Since life is a gift from God, from conception to death, we acknowledge it as such and give him thanks and praise for it. Life and breath are in God’s hand (Job 12:10), the Spirit made us and God Almighty gives us life (Job 33:4; cf. Ps 100:3), and because we are His, we are not to be worried since “hairs of your head are all numbered” and “sparrows do not fall to the ground” without the Father knowing and caring (Matt 10:30; cf. Luke 12:7).
  4. As sons and daughters of God the Father through faith in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we are both called and enabled to love God and love others (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27), both individually and as the church, the people of God.
  5. God has compassion for those image-bearers who are most vulnerable (Deut 10:18; Isa 1:17; Ps 68:5; Gal 2:10; Jas 2:14-17), and as his children we to “be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1), to engage in “religion that is pure and undefiled...to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (Jas 1:27).

The heart of the issue

The heart of the issue that must not be missed is this: it is always, everywhere, morally wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person.

Grounded in the truth of God’s Word, it is critical for us to remember the heart of the issue. Francis Beckwith, Bad (Though Not Entirely Bad) Pro-Life Arguments, responds to the arguments used by some who are committed to the sanctity of human life, but the arguments used call into question the very heart of the argument. It is not about examples, or illustrations, or the gruesomeness of the abortion procedure, or the regret and emotional pain. All of those things may or may not be accurate, and they may or may not be experienced by some, none or all. The heart of the issue that must not be missed is this: “it is always, everywhere, morally wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person” (emphasis mine):

For those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life and seek to persuade those with whom we disagree, it is essential that the reasons we give actually support our position. Unfortunately, some well-meaning pro-life advocates present arguments that are emotionally moving but shift the focus away from the essence of the sanctity of life ethic: it is always, everywhere, morally wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person. A shift away from that focus not only gives our critics a mistaken impression about the strength of our position, but also misleads them as to what we actually believe about the nature of unborn human life.

The ministry and mission of making disciples

There are many issues of the Christian life that are important as we consider discipleship and disciplemaking. More specifically, being pro-life is not tangential to the Christian life, but is an important aspect of Jesus’ teaching. Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute, in a recent article for life and against abortion, concludes being convicted and committed to pro-life is not a distraction to or diversion from our call as Christians. Rather this call and command are grounded in the biblical teaching of discipleship, including all the Lord Jesus has commanded (Matt 28:19-20). Klusendorf concludes with the following encouragement and exhortation for churches:

Biblical teaching is not a distraction from the mission of the church, but fits within it. Instead of ducking the issue, local churches should equip believers to do four things:

  1. Advocate for the unborn legally, limiting the evil of abortion insofar as possible given current political realities.
  2. Engage the culture with a persuasive case for life focused on the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion.
  3. Present alternatives to abortion through the important work of pregnancy resource centers.
  4. Minister to millions of our fellow citizens wounded by abortion, presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only hope for human evil.

As you read this exhortation to the church, remember, importantly, churches are made up of people, so do not wait for or expect the “church” to do this. You are part of the church, so you help the church to engage in this aspect of ministry and mission of making disciples.

Personal Testimony

Finally, I conclude with a testimony from a young 21-year-old millennial woman, “Why I am Pro-Life.”

There are many reasons I am pro-life, so let me list three. First, I believe in the “imago Dei” that every person is created in the image of God. This alone is strong enough cause for me to be against abortion. Further, I believe that size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency (the SLED argument) do not affect whether a baby is a baby or not. All of these aspects have been used to justify the killing of a preborn baby, and the image of God in the baby is not ultimately dependent on any one or all of those aspects of life. Finally, I believe in giving women the right to choose. Since that is the terminology of pro-abortionists, it is important for me to explain. Many women seeking abortions do not feel like they have a choice; thus they proceed with an abortion. I want them to know that there are options available, such as keeping the baby, or of giving the baby to a family through adoption. My pro-life position is really the one with some viable options, some legitimate and good choices, all that preserve the life and well-being of the baby and the mother. In contrast, the pro-choice option is only a single option with no real choice: the killing of a preborn baby.

This young woman is my daughter. She is committed to pursuing a life of loving God and serving others through a vocation as a nurse (a ministry outside the church as an extension of the church).

What about you? What about the church? How will you stand for and with your fellow image-bearers in the womb?

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